When Bridget Jones stumbled into the global spotlight in 1998, readers immediately identified with the bumbling thirty-something who recorded a year of her life in sentence fragments, cigarettes, and calories, making Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary not only a mega international success, but also a genre-spawning sensation. While European readers have been devouring Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes for quite some time, they’ve also been nurturing a hunger for home-grown versions that deal with the same universal issues of family, love, weight, and career. Zysk, the Polish publisher of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Swiat Ksiazki, Bertelsmann’s Book Club in Poland, even sponsored a contest in 2001 to find the Polish Bridget. Out of 200 entries, Barbara Kosmowska won and her book, Private Field, published by Zysk in 2004 sold 50,000 copies (Serbian rights sold to Plato and all other rights available, contact Ewa Chrobocínska at email@example.com), but it’s only lately that the real European Bridgets have emerged.
Polish readers, apparently, have an unrivalled penchant for the genre and Prószynski has been capitalizing on this since the mid-nineties when they launched their “fruity series” of women’s fiction, so called for the fruit names of its titles and characters (i.e. Acrid Taste Of Cherries, Green Apple, etc.). Although hugely successful with print runs reaching about 40,000-60,000 for each title, the books have nothing on the runaway success of Loneliness in the Net, a You’ve Got Mail-esque novel by Janusz Wisniewski. After losing blind Natalia, the love of his life, a scientist forms a relationship on the internet with a beautiful, but married woman. Gradually, their love moves into the real world where grappling with a cyber-turned-real relationship ends in tragedy. Since its publication in 2001, the book has sold 140,000 copies, a TV series and feature film are in the works, a follow-up book with epilogue and readers’ letters (Loneliness in the Net: Tryptich) was published in 2003, an audiobook was launched on Valentine’s Day 2005, and foreign rights have been sold from Vietnam to Lithuania (but English rights are still available).
Even though the lighter fare has sold well until now, Prószynski recently launched a similar series, “Cinnamon,” with a more sophisticated and intellectual market focus. Its first title, Never to Paris by Malgorzata Warda involves five women, childhood friends from the northern Polish town of Gdansk who have grown up and spread out. Two remain in their hometown, two live in Warsaw, and the last has fled to Paris. When ex-pat Nina returns to Warsaw, the women gather around the classy, controversial nouvelle parisienne and together muddle through the perennial issues of weight, sex, and unemployment. For rights information on all Polish titles: Malgorzata Borkowska (malgorzataborkowska@ proszynski.pl).
Heading north to Finland, it’s two in the morning and while Harri, the oblivious husband, sleeps like a baby in the next room, Minna Maki paces the kitchen floor, brewing coffee and making a “to-do” list for the new year: : “1. Masters thesis and career (To Do!), 2. House (To Do!) 3. Baby (To Do!).” A gig translating romance novels just doesn’t cut it anymore for this 30-year-old mom-to-be as she sees twenty-something’s with “fetching CV’s” whoosh past her grabbing the few available jobs in Helsinki. Whereas she actually lived through the economic depression and joblessness of Finland in the 1990’s, those days are just vague rumors for her younger competition. With a half-finished Masters in Social Psychology, Minna vows to take the “short-steady-steps of a pregnant woman” toward a successful year as everyone else struts by in stilettos. With a couple thousand copies in the first printing, Pauliina Susi’s Rush Year struck a chord with Finnish readers, selling almost three times as many books as is typical for a debut novel. Currently working on her second title, Susi has been credited with bringing the “diary” type of women’s fiction to the Finnish book market and has been interviewed “practically everywhere.” All rights are available from Tehri Isomäki (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Tammi (Finland).
When Luisa Lozhkina, an ordinary middle-class Russian single mother living in Moscow, bustles through another ordinary busy day, the entire city waits to hear the details of each minor misadventure. Luisa makes a living renting luxury apartments under-the-counter, and the ritzy rentals provide a backdrop for her most unglamorous life – scrambling to appointments at the orthodontist’s and psychotherapist’s and racing to arrive on time to pick up Timofei from school, all the while with her cell phone snug against her ear dealing with the myriad crises of her friends. All of Moscow was privy to the neurotic confessions of Luisa when excerpts of her diary appeared weekly in the popular Moscow magazine Bolshoi Gorod during 2002 and 2003. So comically plausible were the notes-to-self that many Muscovites believed them to be nonfiction when in fact, they were penned by popular Moscow journalist Katya Melelitsa. A novelization of the columns, The Diary of Luisa Lozhkina, became a smash hit with upwards of 25,000 copies sold since its publication by Eterna in May 2005. Contact Thomas Wiedling (email@example.com) at Nibbe & Wiedling Literary Agency (Germany).
Just cross the Baltic Sea and you’ll find Isabella Eklöf, bungling yet another hard-to-come-by audition and toppling even further behind in her aspiration to become a wildly famous film star. Presumably a professional actress, Isabella couldn’t exactly be called “professional” in any other capacity. The “irresistible and charming loser” knows she must get her affairs in order to live the life she’s destined to live (and to get the dashing boyfriend she knows she deserves). Finally her big break shows up and Isabella grabs it. But, as is often the case with the well-meaning yet utterly clumsy heroine, things go horribly wrong. At number six on the bestseller list, the cheekily titled Wonderful and Loved By All (And Things are Great at Work) has sold 40,000 copies in three months. This is the debut novel for actress Martina Haag whose first book, At Home with Martina (a compilation of columns she penned for mama magazine and the daily Aftonbladet in 2003) has sold 140,000 copies to date. Fladen in Sweden recently bought film rights and Martina Haag herself is slated to play Isabella. Movie rights have been sold to major film companies in Norway and Finland as well. Rights have been claimed by Piratförlaget (Norway), Schildts (Finland), and People’s Press (Denmark). Piper nabbed German rights at an auction that lasted an unprecedented three days. Contact Bengt Nordin (bengt.nordin@ nordinagency.com) (Sweden).